RCL C Proper 8 Complementary
1 Kings 19:15-16 and 19-21, Psalm 16, Galatians 5:1 and 13-25, Saint Luke 9:51-62

Jesus said, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”[1]

Jesus has turned a corner in the Gospel today. As he sets his face to go to Jerusalem, he has taught, and he has performed miracles. Those good deeds and that ministry have led the disciples to perceive him in a new and radiant light. Peter has understood who Jesus is, and he has confessed that Jesus is the Messiah, the anointed one of God. The Transfiguration has revealed Jesus to be the Son of God and the embodiment of the Law and the Prophets. What remains for him to do and to reveal about himself?

Before the Gospel today, Jesus has twice predicted his own death and resurrection. As the disciples grow in understanding who he is, Jesus more deeply and directly reveals how his ministry must end. He tells them that he must be rejected by the religious leaders; he must be killed; and he will rise from the dead. Now that Peter and his disciples know who he is, these are the things that remain in his ministry.

If these things don’t seem like much or anti-climatic, we have some re-orienting to do. Remember how Jesus said that to gain your life, you must lose it? His ministry lives out and exemplifies that truth. We’re just not ready for it. We’re just not able to handle it. But what he says is true. To gain your life, you must lose it.

And so, in the Gospel today, as the time draws near for Jesus to be taken up, as the time draws near for him to lose his life, he resolutely sets his face for the Jerusalem.

Not one of the usual worldly concerns and obligations has a priority over gaining his life. No commitment matches the commitment Jesus has to gain his life: not vindicating oneself, not burying a parent, nor even saying goodbye before setting out on a life-giving journey.

All of these are hard to accept and hard to see. They are like the cross itself, so rough, so hard, and so difficult to accept. They are the instrument to use to make our way toward gaining our life.

We see in Jesus the resolution we need. We see in him the re-orientation we need. That resolution and that re-orientation convey us from here to there, from this life to eternal life.

One person who got from here to there said this: “I never knew what joy was like until I gave up pursuing happiness.” He knew what Jesus knew and what Jesus taught. He knew that to lose happiness is to gain it. He knew that to lose your life is to gain it.

How will this rock-hard, flinty truth work out in your life? For in your life, and in mine, it will work out to the glory of God.

[1] Saint Luke 9:62.